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Fishing charters and tournaments at the beach

As vacationers get more cost-conscious, fishing-boat outfitters are offering trips at a range of prices.

At Bahia Marina in Ocean City, one of the most popular excursions is a partial-day tour on a large boat carrying 50 to 80 anglers, owner Shawn Harman said. The 80-person Judith M. heads out to the ocean twice per day to hunt for sea bass, tautog and other bottom-dwelling fish on a 41 / 2-hour tour.

Another option is the Tortuga, which takes two- to three-hour cruises into the bay for flounder and bluefish. “The Tortuga is the one for people who want to take the kids out,” Harman said. “It’s a shorter trip, and it’s milder, because it’s in the bay.”

The crew also offers help to kids (and adults) who may not have reeled in a croaker before. “The guys on your boat will bait your hook and take your fish off the line, if that’s what it takes,” Harman said.

For those more serious about the sport, Bahia Marina annually sponsors four tournaments, including the Poor Girl’s Open in August, a three-day event that is the largest “ladies-only” billfish tournament in the world. (Points are awarded for each blue marlin, white marlin and sailfish caught, and prizes are given for the heaviest fish in a few categories.) It’s open to all comers, and entry fees benefit breast cancer research. In recent years, Harman said, the tournament has attracted about 100 boats and 400 anglers, with raffles, games and other attractions at Bahia Marina and the Fish Tales bar while the boats are out.

If you’re interested in hiring a boat to hunt blue marlins, tuna or mako sharks in the Atlantic, that’s definitely an option, although it’s pricier than it was a few years ago. Harman said you can expect to pay from $1,200 to $2,000 for up to six people, and that doesn’t include food or gratuities. “The cost relates directly to fuel prices,” Harman said. A few years ago, the 12-hour trips were popular, but now they’re primarily “for the enthusiast.”

Bahia Marina, 22nd Street and Assawoman Bay, Ocean City. 410-289-7438. www.bahiamarina.com. The Judith M. departs at 8 a.m. and 1:30 p.m. daily and costs $42 per adult and $22 per child (age 11 and younger). The Tortuga departs at 8 a.m., noon and 4 p.m. daily, and costs $26 per adult and $18 per child. Both ships sell drinks and snacks. Bait is provided aboard, and rods and reels are available for rent.

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